Surrendering to Ayahuasca – my experience with plant medicine in Peru

 

“The best piece of advice I can give you is to surrender,” the Shaman said.

“When people have a bad experience, it’s because they fight.  However hard you fight, Mother Ayahuasca will fight harder.

You won’t win. Just surrender, let her drive.”

 

Silence filled the room.  The air of joviality, of we’ve got this, evaporated.

My heart was hammering and my breath was shaky, but I knew this was the reason I’d come here. To learn to really surrender.  To let go of the illusion of control and experience what was on the other side of that.

I didn’t know if my growing nervousness or growing curiosity would win out, but either way I was in it for the entire ride.  No backing out now. The hours were ticking down and we were sent for some self-reflection time and to determine what our intentions would be for our ceremony that would take place at 7pm.

 

After a meeting with the doctor and the psychologist, I had a few breathing techniques and a few focal points to keep me grounded enough to get what I was here for from my Ayahuasca experience.

The technique was simple: Hands in prayer position just under your face.  As you breathe in, you spread your fingers wide, as you breathe out, you bring them back together.

Little did I know at this point, in response to the technique, my brain would adamantly tell me those hands didn’t belong to me, as the outline of what I conceptualised as ‘me’ and what the visions were showing me blurred together.

But that was later on.

 

 

After much preparation, journaling, meditating and even a little nap (the quiet time, the no phones and the fasting was having a great effect on everyone!), 7pm rolled around quicker than I’d have imagined.

We went for a cleansing ceremony before stepping into the Maloka: a round room with a thatched roof and a pillar right in the middle of it that extended all the way up to where it entered the night, the roof stopping just short allowing a peak of the night sky to enter.

There were ten ‘beds’ set up – mats and blankets and cushions arranged around the room for each of us.

A bucket beside each, no imagination required there.

We all selected where we wanted to be and settled in.

The Shaman, nurse, facilitator and doctor entered – the Shaman beginning the ritual as the nurse and facilitator visited each of us for a final blood pressure check.

Surprisingly, mine was not through the roof as my anticipation continued to build.

Before long, we each sat with a cup in hand, re-incanting our intentions and staring into the sludgy concoction in the cup.

My heart was pounding even harder than earlier.  I breathed, connected to gratitude, and downed the lot.

Think decade-old curdled Jaeger and you’d be almost there.  Still, not as bad as I’d expected.  Better than the hard mineral water we’d drunk litres of the day before to purge and cleanse our bodies, that’s for damn sure.

 

I sat back against the cushions, keeping myself almost upright. Experiences with lying prone and psychedelics in the past haven’t been all that enjoyable, so I hedged my bets.

 

The lights were out by this point, a tiny ceremonial flame transitioning us into total darkness as the only light was the day-before-full moon shining through the small gap in the roof.

 

A deep calmness settled in once I’d drunk the Ayahuasca – now there was really no turning back.

It took around 20 minutes before the effects started hitting some of the group, many kicking it off with some serious vomiting.

One girl had an even more unpleasant entry and just as the visions started coming on for me, her screams cut through the peaceful atmosphere.  Shrill, someone’s killing me screams.

Knowing she’d be well taken care of, and that our own focus was the most important thing, I settled back under my blankets, refocused on my breathing, chanting internally…

Breathe in, breathe out, surrender… 

Breathe in, breathe out, ________… insert your personal intention you’d set before the ceremony began.

That did it.  I grounded enough in my experience to be catapulted into some seriously intense visuals.

 

Next thing I knew, I was face to face with my Mum.  In her hospital room, staring at her amazing eyes as we had one of our last conversations.

I re-experienced her death and the hours leading up to and after it, and realised fully that I’d never let the grief, the sorrow and the weight of it all in before.

But then I did.  The emotion was almost entirely overwhelming, but juxtaposed with a feeling of complete safety; of knowing everything was perfectly okay.

The scene of her death passed and I was face to face with her again.  As she moved closer and closer, a feeling began to overwhelm me again – different this time.  This time it was peace unlike any I’d ever known before, and as she came into focus she was smiling.

The presence and the feeling I got as I connected with her is just indescribable; such deep and endless peace.  That everything in the entire Universe was perfectly okay.  She told me she’d never known peace like this while she was alive, but I could if I chose to.

She also told me that I’d fulfilled her request she’d given me in that final conversation in the hospital room…

“Don’t make this a double tragedy.  You just have to carry on.”

The tears were flowing like nothing I’d ever experienced and before long the scene changed, into other intense and profound visions and insights.

I floated out of the Maloka that night, more grateful, more humbled, more grounded and open that I’d ever been in my life.

And that was only night number one.

 

Let me know if you want to hear about the following ceremony, which took a pretty different turn!

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